The Miami Heat are clinging to their playoff lives with seven games to go, while Dwyane Wade's balky knee continues to be an issue.
Wade bruised his left knee during a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday and is considered day-to-day. Wade has a well documented history with knee ailments and has played through problems in the past. For Miami to have a realistic chance at the playoffs, Wade will once again likely need to step up while not at 100%.
The Heat are currently tied for eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics sit with the same record, and the two teams will not take each other on again in the regular season. Miami is also currently a half-game behind seventh place Brooklyn.
Miami has been decimated by injuries this season and the list includes both starting and role players. Without Chris Bosh's service, the Heat turned to Wade as their main offensive weapon. Wade's ability to stay on the court took on all new importance with a shorthanded roster around him.
The Heat are pleased that Wade has no structural damage in the knee but it could still impact his minute totals and production ability. The veteran has averaged 31.5 minutes per game this season and Miami may need even more than that down the stretch.
Miami's final seven-game run of the season begins on Saturday in the first part of a back-to-back. The opponent will be the lowly Detroit Pistons with the game coming on the road. This is the type of game that the Heat can not afford to lose. It remains to be seen if Wade will lace up his sneakers for the contest.
Sunday will bring a critical game in Indiana against the Pacers. While the Pacers will miss the playoffs, they still represent a challenge for Miami. Not only will the Heat have tired legs but Indiana has a winning record on their home court this year.
Miami will begin a four-game home stand after those pair of road games. While playing at home normally would breed optimism, the Heat have a losing record at American Airlines Arena this season.
In the four home contests, Miami will take on three teams that are still alive in the playoff chase. The Charlotte Hornets who will visit first are fighting for their playoff lives as they sit one and a half games behind Miami.
After Charlotte, two postseason bound teams will fly into Miami. The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors will likely be the three and four seeds in the East and could determine if Miami makes the playoffs or not. The last game of the home stand will come against the Orlando Magic who are in the midst of a dismal season but could be spoilers.
On April 15th, the Heat will play their final game of the regular season when they visit Philadelphia. This could end up being a game that Miami needs and it will come against one of the worst teams in the NBA. The 76ers however will no doubt be at their best if the game has meaning.
Miami has a 34-41 record this year and will likely finish with a losing mark for the first time since the 2007-08 season.